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Intervention Review

Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults

  1. L Reveiz,
  2. AF Cardona,
  3. EG Ospina

Editorial Group: Cochrane Acute Respiratory Infections Group

Published Online: 24 JAN 2005

DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004783.pub2


How to Cite

Reveiz L, Cardona AF, Ospina EG. Antibiotics for acute laryngitis in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2005, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004783. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004783.pub2.

Author Information

*Dr Ludovic Reveiz, Chief, Department of General Practice, Clinica Reina Sofía, Diagonal 127 A # 31 - 48 Cons 221, Bogota, COLOMBIA. mmreveiz@hotmail.com.

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 JAN 2005

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This is not the most recent version of the article. View current version (23 MAY 2015)

 

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Synopsis

Background

Acute laryngitis is a common illness worldwide. Diagnosis is often made by case history alone and treatment is often directed towards controlling symptoms.

Objectives

The aim of this review was to assess the effectiveness of different antibiotic therapies in adults suffering acute laryngitis. A secondary objective was to report the rates of adverse events associated with these treatments.

Search strategy

We systematically screened the following electronic databases: the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2004); MEDLINE (January 1966 to June Week 3 2004); and EMBASE (1974 to June 2004), LILACS (from 1982 to the 40th edition) and BIOSIS (1980 to June 2002). Other strategies included hand searching relevant journals, searching ongoing trial databases and general databases such as Alta Vista.

Selection criteria

Randomized controlled trials comparing any antibiotic therapy with placebo in acute laryngitis. The main outcome measurement was objective voice scores.

Data collection and analysis

Data were independently extracted by two people and then descriptively synthesised.

Main results

Only two trials met study inclusion criteria after extensive literature searches. One hundred patients were randomly selected to receive either penicillin V (800 mg twice a day for five days), or an identical placebo, in a study of penicillin V in acute laryngitis in adults. A tape recording of each patient reading a standardised text was obtained during the first visit, subsequently during re-examination after one and two weeks, and at follow up after two to six months. No significant differences were found between the groups. The trial also measured symptoms reported by patients and found no significant differences.

The second trial investigated erythromycin for treating acute laryngitis in 106 adults. The mean objective voice scores measured at the first visit, at re-examination after one and two weeks, and at follow up after two to six months did not significantly differ between control and intervention groups. At one week there were significant beneficial differences in the severity of reported vocal symptoms as judged by the patients (p = 0.042). Comparing the erythromycin and placebo groups on subjective voice scores the a priori relative risk (RR) was 0.7 (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.51 to 0.96, p = 0.034) and the number needed to treat (NNT) was 4.5.

Authors' conclusions

Antibiotics appear to have no benefit in treating acute laryngitis. Erythromycin could reduce voice disturbance at one week and cough at two weeks when measured subjectively. We consider that these outcomes are not relevant in clinical practice. The implications for practice are that prescribing antibiotics should not be done in the first instance as they will not objectively improve symptoms.

 

Synopsis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Synopsis

Plain language summary

Available data suggests that antibiotics (penicillin V and erythromycin) are of limited use for most adults with acute laryngitis

Acute laryngitis is an inflammation of the larynx. The most common symptoms are hoarseness, fever, sore throat, postnasal discharge and difficulty in swallowing. This review found that penicillin V and erythromycin appear to have no benefit in treating acute laryngitis. Erythromycin could reduce voice disturbance at one week and cough at two weeks when measured subjectively. We consider these outcomes are not relevant in clinical practice as the modest benefits from antibiotics may not outweigh their cost, adverse effects, or negative consequences on antibiotic resistance patterns.